Politics & Policy

Congressional Champions

A human-rights caucus within the Human Rights Caucus.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the April 25, 2005, issue of National Review.

Last month, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Rep. Eliot Engel introduced their Lebanon and Syria Liberation Act. It calls for sanctions on companies and countries that help Syria acquire weapons of mass destruction; it also calls for aid to Syrian and Lebanese pro-democracy and human-rights groups. The bill is a follow-up to the representatives’ Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act, which President Bush signed in December 2003. Ros-Lehtinen and Engel don’t care much for the Syrian regime, and they don’t care much for tyrannical regimes elsewhere, either. They are, indeed, part of a small group of House members who can be counted on to champion human rights around the world.

Where human rights are concerned, the same names pop up, over and over. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is a Cuban-American Republican from Miami, and so are the Diaz-Balart brothers, Lincoln and Mario. They are always carrying on about human rights, and always will. Why is not hard to understand: The Cuban experience is central to their lives. Eliot Engel is a New York Democrat, and a steadfast ally of the Cubans: of the Cuban-American congressmen, and the Cuban people. Two other Democrats who can be relied on are Gary Ackerman, another New Yorker, and Tom Lantos, the Hungarian-born Californian who survived the Holocaust. Other Republicans who are identified with human rights are Frank Wolf, from Virginia, Chris Smith, from New Jersey, and Chris Cox, another Californian.

This is not to say that these congressmen are mushballs–far from it. They have hard heads to go with soft hearts. But they believe that human rights belong in U.S. foreign policy, and that America is not, ultimately, a nation like any other: It has standards to uphold…

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